When Roberto Luongo retired in 2019, he finished 9th all time for most regular season shutouts in NHL history with 77. This is an amazing feat given that he finished ahead of Hall of Fame goalies Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy while playing on worse team for the most part.
Certainly, he is destined to join the Hall of Fame.
Of course, the number of shutouts a goalie gets in his career comes down to a lot more than just raw talent or even playing on good teams. You need to play in the right era, and you usually need a long and healthy career.
When we look at the top nine, three played in the 1920s and 1930s, three played in the 1950s to 1970s, and three played more recently. There’s a reason that no one who played in the 1980s is on the list (scoring was a lot higher in the 1980s than in any other decade).
All of the goalies in the top of the list could have done even better.
The first three had relatively short careers of 11 to 12 years, with George Hainsworth not starting until the age of 33.
By that age, Terry Sawchuk was well past his prime. Major injuries and a troubled life were starting to have an impact by his mid 20s, so it’s really amazing he did hold the record of 103 shutouts for so many decades. Had Sawchuk had access to modern equipment, including a helmet, not been a chain smoking alcoholic nervous wreck, and had he not died prematurely, he could have been a lot higher in the shutout department.
Of course, the only goalie to beat his total, Martin Brodeur, missed out on one season because of the NHL 2004/05 lockout, plus had a shortened season from another union-owners dispute. Luongo and Hasek also faced the same disruptions in their careers, so their total numbers would have likely been higher. Hasek’s especially would have been higher up the list had he played more in the NHL instead of in Europe.
Jacques Plante had a long and storied career, playing until his mid 40s, but asthma forced him to retire twice before his final retirement.
And then there’s Glenn Hall, who perhaps played up to his potential the best of anyone on the list by playing an NHL record 502 games in a row at one point — a record that will never be beaten. Every year he threatened to retire and not show up for the next season, but the team would convince him. Finally, in 1971 at the age of 39 he packed it in for good. He could have squeezed out a few more years at that point, I’m sure, but he played over 900 games in just 18 years.
His numbers were somewhat compromised by playing on teams that weren’t top team, so had he played on a better team, Hall’s shutout totals would have likely been higher than 84, that’s if he would have gotten the same amount of healthy playing time that Chicago gave him.
All this to say, when you look at the shutout leaders, and you see that none of them lived up to their full potential, you know that even Brodeur’s record of 125 shutouts is a beatable record.